Skip to content

Clerkenwell Post, March 2015

This article was written 6 years ago.

I wrote a guide to Clerkenwell Design Week‘s venues for the Clerkenwell Post. (All copy is as submitted.)
CDW-for-Clerkenwell-Post

The Farmiloe Building

The Farmiloe Building looms large over the Smithfield end of St John Street, but unless you’ve had cause to go inside, the chances are you won’t have noticed it, so typical is its Victorian architecture of the local warehouse vernacular.

Designed by Lewis Henry Isaacs, the Grade II listed building was completed by Browne & Robinson in 1868. It was home to sheet-lead and glass manufacturer George Farmiloe & Sons for over a century until 1999, and has been used for large-scale events and film production ever since. Batman, the Joker, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple have all trod its boards. Step inside and a full height atrium provides a dramatic view from the mezzanine floors, a dog-leg staircase features a cast-iron balustrade decorated with flower motifs and the firm’s monogram, and years of film-set alterations add layers of intrigue. During Clerkenwell Design Week in May, the Farmiloe Building will become the Design Factory, showcasing furniture, lighting and product design from around the world, with international design brands sitting alongside home-grown designer-makers.

The Order of Saint John

St John’s Gate is one of the few remaining clues to Clerkenwell’s monastic past. Built in 1504 by Prior Thomas Docwra, it was originally the south entrance to the inner precinct of the Priory of the Knights of Saint John. A succession of Victorian architects, including William Griffiths, Richard Norman Shaw, and John Oldrid Scott, restored it in the 19th century and little of the original gate remains. The building is now the headquarters of The Order of Saint John and St. John Ambulance, and part-houses the Museum of the Order, which also occupies nearby Priory Church of St John and its twelfth century Crypt, a rare surviving London building of this period. Clerkenwell Design Week will see St John’s Gate filled with a site-specific installation by Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon for the American Hardwood Export Council, intriguingly titled The Invisible Store of Happiness. While the festival’s luxury interior design product showcase, Detail, will appear at The Order of St. John, throughout the church, crypt and cloister garden, and in an additional pavilion on St John’s Square.

The House of Detention

Walking down the steps into the dark, damp space that is the House of Detention is slightly spooky even for the die-hard cynics amongst us – reports of ghosts include a sobbing young girl, an old lady constantly searching for something, and a cruel ghost who only appears to lone females. There has been a prison on the site since 1616, although the current catacombs date from its last rebuilding in 1844, when it was used as a holding prison for those awaiting trial. An estimated 10,000 people passed through its gates every year. The prison was demolished in 1890, to make way for the Hugh Myddleton School, since converted into flats, but the vaults beneath lay undisturbed until they were used as an air-raid shelter during the Second World War. In May, the House of Detention will play host to Platform, the element of Clerkenwell Design Week focused on up-and-coming design talent. The juxtaposition between cutting-edge design and the atmospheric architecture that surrounds it will only add to the thrill of visiting.

Crypt on the Green

The Crypt on the Green, with its vaulted ceiling and curved acoustic wall, lies underneath Clerkenwell’s St James’ Church, a building with a chequered history dating back to the 12th century. Originally part of the Nunnery of St Mary, it was taken over by local parishioners after the dissolution of the nunnery by King Henry VIII, by which point it had been re-dedicated to St James. The steeple fell down twice in 1623, and by 1788 the church was a hodgepodge of 17th and 18th century styles cobbled onto what remained of the mediaeval nunnery church. An act of parliament ordered the rebuilding of the church and local architect James Carr, under the influenced of Wren and Gibbs, undertook the work. The upper galleries were added in 1822 for the Sunday school, the tower and spire were restored in 1849, the stained glass in the east windows was added in 1863, and the church was restored once again in 1882. Come May 2015, Additions, the Clerkenwell Design Week show dedicated to small design pieces and interior accessories from emerging talent, will be at the Crypt on the Green for the second year, having launched in 2014.